Saturday, August 27, 2011

Vegan Fried Okra

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When I lived in the South several years ago, having lunch at a Meat and Three meant feasting upon an order of greasy fried okra, silky mac n' cheese and buttery mashed potatoes while sitting at a slightly sticky formica table. Although it's impossible to recreate the atmosphere of these restaurants (which is worth experiencing if you are not from the South), veganizing some of the food is pretty easy and worth a shot. I decided to keep the okra whole here and incorporated some chickpea flour in the breading to achieve a good crunch and golden color. As soon as you remove the okra from the oil, a liberal sprinkle of salt is crucial to enhancing the flavor of the breading and texture of the okra.

1 cup unsweetend soymilk
2 TB organic apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
4 TB chickpea flour

1/2 pound of okra
1 1/2 tsp Ener-G, whisked with 5 TB water
plenty of vegetable oil for frying

You'll need 3 wide and shallow bowls, enough to accommodate the length of the okra. In one of the bowls, combine the soymilk and vinegar to create a vegan equivalent of buttermilk. Set aside and allow to thicken for at least 20 minutes. Throw the okra in the mixture to soak.

In another bowl, combine the next four ingredients. Whisk your Ener-G and water in the third bowl.

Heat plenty of the oil (enough to submerge the okra) in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. You can tell when the oil is ready by inserting a wooden spoon into the oil, touching the bottom of the pan: if bubbles form immediately around the spoon, your oil is ready.

Working in batches, roll the okra in the buttermilk, then dunk it into the Ener-G mixture. Dunk it again into the buttermilk, then roll in the flour mixture, ensuring that it is well-coated. Slowly add the okra to the oil and fry for about 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the okra and, while the oil is still wet, sprinkle it with some salt. Serve immediately.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Smoky Cashew Cheese

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I've made the Cashew Cheddar Cheese recipe over at 101 Cookbooks countless times over the years and the recipe below is my adapted version. I enjoy this type of cheese for its simplicity and ability to morph into any shape or texture. Let me explain: the introduction of agar into this recipe allows the end product to gel and firm up perfectly, allowing the end product to be sliced, diced, grated or melted just like regular cheese. Unlike its raw cousin, this cheese can be whipped up in minutes and needs just a few hours to set. Enjoy on crackers, melted into a mac n' cheese or grated over a salad.

3/4 cups whole raw cashews
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 turmeric, for color (optional)
1 tsp garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 3/4 cups unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup agar flakes
1/4 cup canola oil
4 TB mellow or chickpea miso
juice from a halved fresh lemon
1 tsp liquid smoke


Grind the cashews in a food processor until they achieve the consistency of a fine powder. Add in the nutritional yeast, onion powder, salt, turmeric, garlic powder and white pepper.

Heat the almond milk, agar and oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once it begins to bubble around the edges, decrease the heat to medium-low, and stir and simmer for about 10 minutes, ensuring that the agar is completely dissolved.

Add the cashew powder mix to the saucepan and stir vigorously. Remove about a cup of the hot mixture and place into a small bowl. Add in the miso and stir until well combined, then add that mixture back into the pot. Remove from the heat. Add in the lemon juice and liquid smoke. Place in the refrigerator for a few hours to gel.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Lemongrass and Garlic Stuffed Tofu

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I am a huge fan of Penang, a Malaysian restaurant in Chinatown. I especially love their Satay Bean Curd appetizer, which features crispy fried tofu triangles stuffed with cucumber, bean sprouts and a peanut sauce. I like the idea of stuffing a sauce into tofu as opposed to dipping it into something—it's kind of genius and looks really fancypants. So I decided to make a similar dish using this idea, but changed it up a bit, incorporating some fresh lemongrass and garlic with a touch of curry and a generous amount of peanut butter to create the rich and spicy filling, which complemented the crispiness of the deep-fried tofu perfectly. 

1 TB toasted sesame oil
4-6 garlic cloves, minced
3 scallions, cut on the bias
1 lemongrass heart, minced (reserve outer rinds for steeping in tea later)
1/4 tsp curry powder
1/8-1/4 tsp red chili flakes
3 TB chunky peanut butter
1 tsp soy sauce
3 TB crushed peanuts
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
plenty of vegetable oil for frying
1 block tofu
1 1/2 tsps Ener-G egg replacer, whisked with 5 TB warm water
1/2-3/4 cup cornstarch

Heat the sesame oil in a small pot over medium-low heat. Add in the garlic cloves and saute and stir for about a minute. Add in the scallions and saute for another minute. Add in the lemongrass, curry powder and red chili flakes and stir until blended and remove from the heat.

While the mixture is still warm, add in the chunky peanut butter and gently stir until well-blended. Add in the soy sauce, crushed peanuts and cilantro and stir again. Set aside.

Cut the tofu block in half and then cut each of those haves into right angle triangles. Cut a small 1/8-inch wide slit in the longest side of the triangle. Dab the moisture off of the tofu with some paper towels and set aside.

In a medium-sized pot, heat the oil (enough to submerge the triangles in) over medium-high heat. After about 7 minutes, test the oil's readiness by inserting a wooden spoon into the pot—if bubbles immediately form around the spoon, the oil is ready.

Dip the tofu triangles into the Ener-G mixture, and then coat it in some of the cornstarch, making sure all sides are covered and tapping off any excess. Place the triangles, two at a time, into the oil and fry until golden, about 4 minutes. Carefully remove from the pot and place on paper towels to drain.

Once the triangles have cooled enough to handle, carefully break open the recess and spoon an overflowing amount of the lemongrass-garlic mixture into it. Serve immediately.